One Turkish soldier was killed and another was wounded on Sunday (Oct 20) after an attack by the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia in north-east Syria’s Tel Abyad, the defence ministry said, despite a deal to pause military operations as militants withdraw from the area.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed with the United States last Thursday, in talks with US Vice-President Mike Pence, to a five-day pause in the offensive to allow time for the Kurdish fighters to withdraw from a “safe zone” that Turkey aims to form in north-east Syria near its border.
A Turkish soldier was killed and another wounded in an attack by Syrian Kurdish forces on Sunday despite a ceasefire deal brokered by the United States, the defence ministry said.
“One of our heroic comrades fell martyr and another was wounded after anti-tank and small arms fire by… terrorists during their reconnaissance and surveillance mission” in the Tal Abyad border area, the Turkish defence ministry said in a statement.
Ankara regards the YPG, the main component of the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), as a terrorist group because of its links to Kurdish insurgents in south-east Turkey.
The YPG has been a close US ally in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria terror network.
In a statement, the defence ministry said an attack by the YPG with anti-tank and light weapons had struck Turkish soldiers carrying out a reconnaissance and surveillance mission in Tel Abyad on Sunday.
Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Ankara abided by the agreement and urged the US to use its leverage to ensure Syrian Kurdish forces’ pullout.
Meanwhile, the top figure on the Kurdish side, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) commander Mazloum Abdi, told AFP that Turkey was blocking his forces’ withdrawal and trying to blame the deal’s collapse on the Kurds.
The Turkish offensive launched earlier this month has prompted hundreds of thousands to flee their homes in the latest humanitarian crisis of Syria’s eight-year civil war.
As part of the deal, the US announced that no further sanctions will be imposed on Turkey.
Turkey launched the Operation Peace Spring on October 9 after the United States, an ally of Kurdish militia People’s Protection Units (YPG), in the war against the Islamic State militants, announced the withdrawal of its troops from the area.
Turkey’s defence ministry said late on Saturday that it was closely monitoring the withdrawal of the YPG and that it was in close contact with US officials over the issue and to provide logistical information.
Mr Erdogan also said last Friday that Turkey would set up a dozen observation posts across north-east Syria and that he would hold talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on what steps to take in the planned “safe zone” next week.
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